Phase 1 – JHSC role and function


Even though joint health and safety committees (JHSCs) have been in existence in Ontario workplaces for almost 30 years and health care workers are at high risk for workplace injury, there has been little research done related to JHSC functioning in Ontario’s health care sector. In his recent review of the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in Toronto, Justice Archie Campbell found that JHSCs in Ontario hospitals were not fulfilling their intended roles and responsibilities. The objective of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of the role, resources, structure and functioning of JHSCs in Ontario hospitals.

Reference: Nichol K, Kudla I, Manno M, McCaskell L, Sikorski J, Holness DL. Form and function of Joint Health and Safety Committees in Ontario Acute Care Hospitals. Healthcare Quarterly 2009; 12(2):86-93.

Phase 2 – Gold standard JHSC


BACKGROUND: There is very little in the literature on the effectiveness of Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSCs) in the healthcare sector and a paucity of information on how JHSCs are perceived in the workplace.

OBJECTIVE: This study was carried out to explore hospital worker, hospital management, and healthcare sector stakeholder views on the effectiveness of JHSCs in the acute healthcare setting.

METHODS: The study used a qualitative descriptive design with: (1) nineteen focus groups and twenty two individual interviews in three hospitals of different sizes; and (2) eight individual interviews with external stakeholders.

RESULTS: Study findings showed gaps in awareness and understanding of the role and responsibilities of the Joint Health and Safety Committee. Some participants indicated that JHSCs lacked profile and had low visibility in the organization. Facilitators and barriers to JHSC effectiveness were investigated and measures to assess effectiveness identified. The attributes of a “gold standard” JHSC were outlined by respondents and can be used to develop an evidence-driven assessment tool to evaluate JHSCs.

CONCLUSION: The results of this study indicate both a continuing need for education and training related to JHSCs and the need to develop better tools to assess JHSC functioning and effectiveness.

Reference: Holness D, Hayes L, Nichol K, Kudla I, Nincic V. Joint health and safety committees – What is their impact in the acute care hospital? Work 2016; 53(4):763-773.

Phase 3 – Developing and piloting tool to measure JHSC effectiveness


BACKGROUND: Concern regarding functioning and effectiveness of joint health and safety committees (JHSCs) in Ontario hospitals was raised following the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in 2003. A subsequent literature review revealed a lack of studies focused within the health care sector.

METHODS: A tool to measure JHSC effectiveness was developed by a panel of occupational health and safety experts based on a framework from the healthcare sector. Usability testing was conducted in two phases with members of five hospital JHSCs before, during and after a committee meeting.

RESULTS: Usability of the tool was scored high overall with an average of > 4 on a 5 point scale across twelve items. Downward adjustment of self-assessment scores was reported following JHSC meetings.

CONCLUSION: Findings demonstrated that the tool was easy to use, effective in supporting discussion and in assisting participants in reaching consensus on rating a large number of JHSC characteristics.

Reference: Nichol K, Kudla I, Robson L, Hon CY, Eriksson J, Holness DL. The development and testing of a tool to assess joint health and safety committee functioning and effectiveness. Am J Ind Med 2017; 60(4):368-76.

Phase 4 – Testing tool in the education sector


Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) effectiveness has been identified as an area of concern for Ontario’s education sector. The JHSC Assessment Tool has been previously tested in hospitals with positive results. This study assessed the feasibility and usability of the JHSC Assessment Tool in the education sector. Members of multi-workplace JHSCs from Ontario school boards used the tool to assess their committees’ effectiveness before, during and after a committee meeting with usability testing conducted pre- and post-meeting. Results suggested that the JHSC Assessment Tool was feasible to use during a regular JHSC meeting, groups were able to come to consensus on the majority of items, and usability scores were high overall. Participant feedback provided insight that informed the development of a version relevant to multi-workplace committees.

Reference: Nichol K, Kudla I, Young V, Eriksson J, Budd D, Holness DL. Testing the joint health and safety committee assessment tool in the education sector. Paper submitted.

Phase 5 – Development of a web-based version of the tool


A web-enabled JHSC Assessment tool was developed with:

  • Expert and evidence-based feedback on responses with embedded resources
  • French and English versions available for both single-workplace and multi-workplace JHSCs with applicability across sectors
  • Tool is free and publicly available

Tool links: EnglishFrench

Reference: Nichol K, Hon CY, Young V, Holness DL. Development of a web-based assessment tool for JHSC functioning and effectiveness. Ontario Occupational Health Nurses Association Newsletter Jan-Feb 2018.

Phase 6 – Testing the tool in the construction sector


BACKGROUND: Joint health and safety committees (JHSCs) are a legal requirement for most Ontario workplaces with more than 20 employees or in smaller workplaces where a regulation concerning designated substances applies. While JHSCs play a critical role in establishing a culture of health and safety in the workplace, limited evidence-based tools exist to assess JHSC function and effectiveness. In response, the study team developed and evaluated the JHSC Assessment Tool within the healthcare and education sectors with positive results. A revised web-based version is now available for testing in additional workplace sectors.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this pilot study is to test the usability and feasibility of the web-based JHSC Assessment Tool (“eTool”) in the construction sector.

METHODS: Testing will be carried out in two phases using a non-experimental study design. In the first phase, four construction sector health and safety experts will review the content of the eTool to ensure that it has relevance for the sector. In phase 2, a convenience sample of 10-20 JHSCs from construction sector workplaces will be recruited at Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) regional/trade committee meetings and training programs. Those interested in participating will be asked to have their JHSC complete the eTool as a group at a regularly scheduled JHSC meeting. Each participating JHSC member will then complete a short online usability survey. All results will be presented in aggregate summary form with no individual or workplace identifying information.

IMPLICATIONS: This study will inform whether the current JHSC Assessment Tool is feasible and usable for use across construction sector workplaces to enhance committee effectiveness. If it isn’t found to be feasible and usable, a construction-specific version can be considered.